Hunt for escaped terror suspect enters second day

Hunt for escaped terror suspect enters second day

The hunt for a man who escaped HMP Wandsworth while awaiting trial for terrorism-related offences entered a second day on Thursday as questions mounted about his escape.

Daniel Abed Khalife was reported to the Metropolitan Police after escaping from the Category B jail on Wednesday morning.

The 21-year-old, a former British Army soldier who was based at Beacon Barracks in Beaconside, was on remand at HMP Wandsworth, awaiting trial in relation to terrorism and Official Secrets Act offences.

It has been reported was working in the prison kitchens, dressed in a chef’s uniform, and was able to escape by strapping himself to the underside of a food delivery van.

Khalife's escape has sparked a major police hunt with ports and airports placed on alert.

The staff and visitors entrance at HMP Wandsworth (PA)
The staff and visitors entrance at HMP Wandsworth (PA)

They have been asked to carry out additional security measures, resulting in delays being reported across the UK, including at Heathrow airport, Manchester airport, and the Port of Dover.

The M20 was closed between junctions eight and nine of the M20 on Thursday due to the enhanced security checks.

Scotland Yard believe Khalife escaped from the prison - which is one of the largest in the UK - at approximately 7.50am.

Khalife was last seen wearing a white t-shirt, red and white chequered trousers and brown steel toe cap boots.

He is of slim build, has short brown hair and is around 6ft 2ins tall.

Khalife has links to the Kingston area. Police believe he most likely remains in the London area, although he may have travelled further afield.

Officers are keen to hear from anyone with information that might assist with locating Khalife - even if it doesn’t relate to a live sighting.

At an appearance in the Old Bailey in July it was said Khalife took soldier details from the MoD personnel files which would be “useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”.

Khalife, who was on a videolink from HMP Wandsworth for that hearing, denied committing an act prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State - contrary to the Official Secrets Act 1911 - a charge of eliciting information about members of the Armed Forces, and a third count of perpetrating a bomb hoax.

He allegedly left “three canisters with wires” on a desk in his Army lodgings on January 2 this year, causing others to fear an explosion.

If seen, the public are advised not to approach Khalife and to call 999 immediately, quoting reference CAD 1631/06SEP23.

Commander Dominic Murphy, Head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command confirmed all police forces and UK border points have been put on notice.

He said: “We have a team of officers who are making extensive and urgent enquiries in order to locate and detain Khalife as quickly as possible. However, the public can help us as well and should anyone see Khalife, or have any information as to where he might be, then please call 999 or the immediately.

“I also want to reassure the public that we have no information which indicates, nor any reason to believe that Khalife poses a threat to the wider public, but our advice if you do see him is not to approach him and call 999 straight away.”

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk held an “urgent call” with the prison governor and other senior prison service officials to “seek reassurances about security at the prison”.

Category B prisons have the second highest level of security. The jail, which has a capacity of 1,371, was put on lockdown after Khalife fled.

Labour have demanded the Government explain how the escape could have occurred.

A Prison Service spokesperson said: "We are working with the Metropolitan Police to recapture this prisoner and are urgently investigating how he escaped."

The escape from Wandsworth prison had a knock-on effect of disrupting court hearings for other defendants on remand at the south London site.

An MoD spokesman on Wednesday said that Khalife was a former soldier and added: “As a result of being held on remand for these charges, Daniel Khalife was discharged from the Army on 22 May 2023.”

A trial date for Khalife had been set for November 13 at Woolwich Crown Court.